1. Introduction surfresearch.com.au is a
free online annotated surfcraft museum, compiled as a necessary
part of the evolution of surfing history.
The site is a work in progress -
currently Version # 174, and counting.
Some data is unknowingly incorrect, and
When data is to be found to be
incorrect, it is changed.
Some data is known to be incorrect and
requires correction, but has a low priority.
Spelling and grammatical
errors are rife.
Many sections are incomplete, in some
All sources are credited,
Everything else is my work
and is copyright Geoff Cater, 1999 - 2020.
Enquiries and contributions are
I have never worked in the
My personal manufacturing experience is
limited to ...
- a few boards built in the Great
Backyard Butchery Outbreak of 1968-9 and the early 1970's Cosmic Soul Surfer Experiment.
- a long history of repairs and
restorations, a large number of boards in my personal collection
have been extensively worked (I simply could not afford to pay a
professional to put in the hours required).
My knowledge is based on my
observations of surfboards, discussion with board builders and
riders, and reading any available design related literature.
It is possible that I may have this all
wrong. Online Publication
I used to worry about this (given the ongoing hosting fees) but I
was extremely relieved in 2013 when the National Library of
Australia (NLA) selected my work for
preservation on their PANDORA website,
initially established by the NLA in 1996: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/tep/140676
They now archive it annually, and have six editions up to June
This was all very strange, but I was
stoked, make that extremely stoked.
Firstly, it was cool to be recognised by a prestigious library at
a time when, after considerable resistance, academic institutions
were finally adjusting to the internet.
The net had vastly expanded the definition of "publication"
(verging on meaninglessness), however inclusion on the shelves of
a virtual library was al least somewhere between being and
This dilemma was illustrated in the NLA's
selection, I was contacted because
of an extremely brief, but perceptive, mention in a book, Matt Warshaw's definitive History
of Surfing (2010).
Included in his Sources (page 479), Matt wrote: Although Surfresearch.com is a messy, cut-rate, hard-to-use
site (at least of this writing), it is by far the best single
source of information for early Australian surf history.
Secondly, I am deeply indebted to the
libraries of Australia.
Over the years I have made extensive transcriptions from
newspapers, magazines and books from Australian libraries and after fraudulently signing hundreds of
personal-use copyright slips, I felt a bit less guilty.
Initially, I visited Sydney's NSW State Library
and the beautiful Mitchell Library, later, the Shoalhaven City Library in Nowra and with
their expert assistance, and the NLA's online catalogue (Trove),
accessed library books from all over the country.
Whereabouts are you from in Australia anyway, if I may ask?
I would have a bold guess - somewhere along the NSW coastline. I have been living in Shoalhaven Heads for a long time, about
100 miles south of Sydney, a small coastal village on Seven Mile
With seven miles of open beach, generally, the beach is rarely
blessed with quality waves.
However, the area is known for strong summer onshore breezes that
make the beach highly suitable for sailboards, which I started
riding in 1997.
And, in my experience, the local river has flooded twice (late 1970s and 1980s), the resulting sandbanks provided quality waves for
about 3-4 years.
For the last 20 years I have focused on wave-sailing at the
northern end of the beach (Gerroa), blessed by bear-away
left-handers and where I have to ride switch-foot. 2.
The Title Pods for Primates takes its
title from Bob McTavish's articlesPods for Primates:
A Personal History of Surfboard Design, Part 1 and Part 2"
, originally published by Tracks Magazine
sometime in 1972. They were subsequently reprinted (circa 1972) in
of Tracks Vol 1 (pages 120 – 124). The article was
accompanied by several excellent photographs.
The article's title refers to the
introduction of the Malibu board to Australia in 1956. 'Pod' was
a term for a standard square tail Malibu board circa 1963, see
Kevin Platt in Pollard : The
Australian Surfrider , page 23. Subsequently the term
referred specifically to the tail itself.
'for Primates' hints at both the
relative primitive stage of surfing in Australia in 1956 and
also the evolutionary development of surfboard design, a
theme frequently featured in surf literature, of which Mickey
Dora's “da Cat’s Theory of Evolution” ad for Greg Noll
Surfboards is the most infamous example (Re-printed in
Noll, Greg With Gabbard, Andrea: Da Bull – Life Over
The Edge - photo section).
3. The Quotation
de m'informer du pourquoi et de transformer ma volupté en
- Baudelaire, 1860
Translation : "I set out to
discover the why of it, and to transform my pleasure into
No, I have not read Baudelaire.
My source is Robert Hughes : The
Shock of the New, Thames and Hudson Ltd. London 1980.
The quotation appears in the
introduction, page 7.
Originally I failed to
transcribe the translation correctly - and I couldn't find the
overstrike (é) on my key board. The correct translation
was contributed by Guilhem Rainfray, Guéthary, France. June
2005. Many thanks to Guilhem,
and apologies to l'Académie
Lou Morath's 1938 Alaia
I came across this magnificent
board fortuitously at International Conservation Services,
Chatswood in 1999, where it had been restored. I was able to take
a few basic photographs and dimensions, gain some historical
material from the detached metal dedication plate, and discuss the
restoration process with the craftsman.
Enthused with the beauty of the
board, that night I browsed a heavily thumbed copy of Margan and
Finney's A Pictorial History of Surfing, 1971 and was
amazed to find a photograph of the board and rider in 1940 (page
118). Further research identified the branded logo as that
of the Outrigger Canoe Club, Honolulu (virtually confirming its
Hawaiian connection) and additional information about Lou Morath
and the 1939 Pacific Games in C. Bede Maxwell's Surf :
Australians Against the Sea, 1949 and Reg Harris' The
History of Manly Life Saving Club1911-1961, 1961
(additional photograph page Forty-four).
The craftsmanship and design
exhibited by the board refute any possible derogatry description
such as 'plank' or 'log'. Contact with the Balmoral Beach Club
in August 2000 led to conversations with Dick Morath
(son/grandson of Lou) who reported that the board was shaped by
Lou Morath in Australia before 1939, the origin of the Outrigger
Canoe Club logo a mystery.
The Catalogue started in 1981 when,
while talking with Jeff (Foxy) Fox about surfboards, we put to
paper a list of the boards we owned since starting surfing.
Foxy's list totalled 15 boards, while mine was 25, including
3 retired boards
These boards (#23, #24 and #25) became the basis for a collection
of surfcraft and the list continued to expand.
By 1996 the 'list'comprised
detailed specifications and photographs of approximately 60 boards
with book and magazine references to place the board designs
in historical context.
In 1997 I
started editing and storing the reference sections
of 'the Catalogue' digitally and in 1999 a first
draft went online.
button for first online edition, 1999.
These now comprise the History, References and Appendix
sections of Pods for Primates.
The Catalogue is largely based on my own collection,
supplemented by others that are on public display, from
boards I see at Old Mal Contests, auctions, other
local collectors and submitted examples from contributors.
In 2000 the first entries to the
Catalogue were added and the numbering system is basically
the order in which the boards were added to my original list and
have no other significance.
The Catalogue, as at December 2002,
is a reasonable coverage for the period 1900 to 1984, up to
Simon Anderson's Thruster.
Entries in absentia include hollow
plywoods (paddleboards and okinuees), Keel fin circa 1971, Ski
tail circa 1975, Wilderness Hull circa 1970. A Side Slipper
circa 1970, Bonzer circa 1974, and Step Bottom circa 1965 and
several sailboards are in preparation.
A Brief History of Surfcraft in
Australia Since 1900
Orignally a chronology, some entries
have exceeded their brief, none so much as Duke Kahanamoku's
'introduction of surfing in 1915', which now appears as Duke 1914.
The History section is an on going
project that currently is a convoluted mess, requiring a lot of
work. I am progressively working my way through this in fits and
starts, some sections are reasonably coherent - others merely a
chopped up copy of previous work.
7. The Glossary
1.The Glossary contains only
terminology specific to surboard design, it does not have entries
for general surfing terms - see Cralle below.
2.Many entries are currently uncredited
to their sources, an unfortunate oversight that will be corrected
in the (not so near) future.
3.Although much of this work was
completed before I had access to it, Trevor Cralle's The Surfinary – A
Dictionary of Surfing Terms and Surfspeak 1991 has
been invaluable for review and the addition of US specific terms.
A second edition was published in 2001.
4. New Zealand entries thanks to Tony
5. Also see Books, any indicated as
containing a Glossary.
Entry Format : Model
Name or Term / Common Alternative Term/ Uncommon
Alternative Term / (common application) / (applications) :
Explanation and historical notes.* Editor’s comments.
8. Information and Inspiration
work on the page, many people have offered invaluable
contributions of boards, books, information and inspiration.
Some are listed below..
(Sydney University Board Riders, 1970)
(Sydney University Board Riders, 1970)
Dave Mattison and
Jim Parkinson (Jackson Surfboards)
(Scott Dillon Surfboards),
(NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service)
(Australian National Maritime Museum)
(Kirra Surf Shop)
Greg Millet (Dion
Al Wilson (Al
Ray Moran (Manly
Surf life Saving Club)
Tony Reid (The
Longboard Shop, NZ)
Williams (The Legendary Surfers Homepage)
(Balmoral Beach Club)
Paul D Gross
Although not often required, I endorse the approach of David
Abulafia, who noted: Another
issue is whether to use the Christian labels for dates, BC and
AD, or the modern substitutes, BCE and CE, or indeed (as Joseph
Needham used to recommend) a simple '-' and '+'. Since these variants produce exactly
the same dates as BC and AD I am not sure what advantage they
bring; and those who are uncomfortable with Before Christ and
Anno Domini are free to decide that BC and AD stand for some
other combination of words, such as 'Backward chronology' and
'Accepted date'. - Abulafia, David: The Great Sea- A Human History of the
Mediterranean Allen Lane, London,
2011, page xvi.
Alternatively, bp (that is, before the present), is used for dates established by carbon dating.
The present is defined as before 1st January 1950, after which carbon-dating is unreliable due to the
interference from atmospheric nuclear testing. 10.
Catalogue was an text based attempt to define and describe
surfcraft, with minimal reliance on images.
This was to
reduce my own costs (mainly photograph processing and the
purchase of books and magazines), avoid time consuming image
scanning and manipulation, reduce domain size, allow the pages
to load faster, and to minimise any possible copyright
This is clearly
unsatisfactory; images do provide information beyond the
capabilities of text, they are integral to historical analysis,
and translate wonderfully to the medium.
1. All images
fully credited were possible.
unsuitable by the registered copyright holder will be removed
immediately on notification.
2. Images are
only used where they add substantially to the text.
3. In many cases
the image has been cropped and/or enhanced to focus on relevant
features - this is usually noted.
4. The images are
scanned to the smallest size that allows reasonable
identification and fast loading.
invariably smaller than their original printed versions.
5. A majority of
the images, such as portraits, are reproduced in black and
white, even if originally colour.
6. All images are
compressed before uploading, again to promote fast page loading.
Everything else is my
work and is Copyright Geoff Cater, 1999.
contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further
correspondence. This web
page has been produced as a necessary part of the
evolution of Surfing.
( - with
apologies to 1960's
of History: Uploading history to the Net (Internet? Web?)-
a personal view.
Geoff was gifted his first surfboard in
1966, graduated University of Sydney in 1972, became a
mattress-maker in 1975,and began composing and uploading his
web-site on the history of surfboard design in 1999.
An example of
antiquarian history, www.surfresearch.com.au was archived by
the National Library of Australia in 2013 and currently
comprises 10,500 files at 400 mega-bytes.
The work was
initially based on a significant collection of surf-craft
and surfing publications, but its scope has expanded,
principally influenced by James Hornell's
seminal Water Transport- Origins and
Early Evolution (1946), and further
developed at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum in 2015-2016.
Following some comments on the philosophy of
history, the illustrated presentation examines the
basics of formatting of web page,
print versus digital media, content
versus desig, copyright in the 21st century, the
democratisation of knowledge; and a brief overview of the
history of surfboards.
The work of J.S. O'Sullivan, Kenneth Clarke,
and Jacob Bronowski is noted, and references
include the works of Leonardo da
Vinci, James Cook, Charles Gold, Katsushika
Hokusai, R. M. Ballatyne,Duke Kahanamoku,
Frank Gurrey, Willard Bascom,
Lindsay Lord, Ben Finney, George Greenough,
and Homer Simpson.
I'm Geoff, this is my web-site, these are two of my
surfboards, and these are some of my books.
And like Prospero's books, some of them could be said to
O'Sullivan's A Most Unique Ruffian
(1968) recounts the trial of Frederick Deeming, a serial killer who murdered one wife in
England, but was hung for a second in
Melbourne in 1892.
Suspected at the time as being Jack the
Ripper, forensic investigation in 2011 of what was thought to be
Ned Kelly’s skull, revealed it was more
Mr. O'Sullivan was my Modern History teacher for the HSC 1968-1969, and he would
regularly bring his reference books and
copious hand-written notes to class to
work on the book.
Rev. Isaac Taylor : Surf Swimmers, (Sandwich
The earliest known image of Hawaiian surf riding.
R.M. Ballantyne: The Cannibal
Islands - Captain Cook in the South Seas, 1880.
R.Gurrey:The Surf Riders of Hawaii,1913.
First surfing book, Centenary Edition, 2013.
H. Phillips: Surfing Beaches of Sydney NSW, 1930.
J.S. O'Sullivan: A Most Unique Ruffian- The Trial of
F.B. Deeming, 1968.
Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth
Clark, BBC TV series and book, 1969.
Jacob Bronowski: The Ascent of Man, published 1973 and BBC TV series
The Berg: Heikegani http://www.heikegani.com/index.php/essential-viewing-jacob-bronowski-the-ascent-of-man/
Phillipa McGuinness: Copyfight, 2015.
Hokusai: Under the
wave off Kanagawa, 1825. Hunter S.Thompson and Ralph Steadman: The Curse of Lono, 2005.
James Hornell: Water Transport-
Origins and Early Evolution,1946.
Lindsay Lord: Naval
Architecture of Planing Hulls,1946.
Neil MacGregor: A History of
the World in 100 Objects, 2010.
Charles Gold: Catamaran surfer, Madras, India, 1800.
Tom Blake: Hawaiian
Surfboard, 1935. Reprinted in 1983 as Hawaiian
Jack Pollard: The
Signed copy by Duke, others include 1st World Champion
Willard Bascom: Waves and Beaches,1964.
Ben Finney: The Sport
of Hawaiian Kings, 1966.
Based on his master’s thesis in
anthropology with articles
in The Journal of Polynesian Society in 1959
Duke Kahanamoku’s World of
Jeff Carter: Surf
Beaches of Australia’s East Coast, 1968.
Nat Young: Book of Surfing (1979), History of Surfing
(1983-2008),Surfing Australia’s East Coast (1980-3),
Fundamentals (1983-93), Surfing and Sailboard Guide (1986),
Autobiography (1998), Surf Rage (2000). Modern
World Magazine, June
Anderson and Shane
McTavish and Little Red, Maui,1967.
Design and photograph:
John Witzig, signed by Bob.
Dela Vega: 200 Years of Surfing Literature, 2004. Australian contributors include
Geoff Cater, South Coast, NSW.
Days- A Surfing Life, 2015.
Pulitzer Prize for
Frederick Deeming was a serial
killer; murdering one
wife in England, he was hung for a second in Melbourne
Suspected at the time as being Jack the Ripper, forensic
investigation in 2011 of what was
thought to be Ned Kelly’s skull, revealed it
was more likely Deeming.
The author was Geoff
History teacher for
the HSC in 1969.
A landmark in
television documentaries, Civilisation
outlines the history of Western art, architecture and
philosophy since the Dark Ages.
The subtitle, A Personal View by Kenneth Clark,
reinforced the subjectivity of his work.
Jacob Bronowski was a Polish-Jewish-British, sometimes
American, mathematician, biologist, historian of
science, theatre author, poet, inventor, humanitarian,
parent, lover; and a philosopher.
The book was published in 1973 and televised in 1974;
his prodigious aim was to
create a philosophy for the twentieth century- an
alternative to all established religions and
In itself, the book/telecast illustrates his central
thesis: that man does both art and science.
was , some
could say outrageous-
online edition of the Ascent of Man
(2016) has been produced in respect of Jacob
Bronowski'sobservation that cultural
advancement has been conditional on the
democratisation of knowledge (page ?).
Isaac Taylor : Surf Swimmers, (Sandwich
Illustration by the
earliest known image of Hawaiian surfboard
The Ship, John Harris, London, 1830.
filmmaker and author, Jeff Carter settled locally at
Foxground in 1962,
later turning his property into a wildlife sanctuary.
Are libraries obsolete? :
volume an argument for relevance in the digital age /
Mark Y. Herring.
and Betty Cater and plywood canoe,
Patonga NSW, 1950.
Frank and Geoff Cater Bondi
Beach Sydney NSW. Summer
Dedicated to Frank and Betty Cater
22.12.2004) - (28.12.1928 - 7.6.2018)